Three Email Marketing Goals for 2016

It’s the time of year when marketers start to hunker down. They’re laying out their content calendars, orchestrating campaigns and putting in extra-long hours to ensure the busy season goes off without a hitch. Common goals for marketers between October and shortly after the New Year include maximizing engagement, conversions and revenue. For others, there’s simply one goal—survive! Many email marketing teams can’t do the holiday season alone and find themselves relying heavily on the support and expertise of their email solutions’ Account Manager.

At Adobe Campaign, our Account Managers want to ensure their customers are set up for success not only during the busy season, but year round. Our customers use them as sounding boards, get advice on strategy, tips/tricks, or how to maximize their technology investment. Unlike some traditional ESPs, our Account Managers were strategically hired based on their proven success in the email marketing industry. The first of a three part series, I’ve interviewed one of our Adobe Campaign Account Managers to get practical, tried and true advice for not only the holiday season, but for the New Year and year round success.

Krystina Robison, an Account Manager for Adobe Campaign is an email industry veteran. She hails from Texas and supports strategic accounts for Adobe Campaign. I recently sat down with Krystina to get practical advice for increasing engagement during the holidays and strategy advice for the New Year:

There’s this assumption that the email marketing role is a stepping stone to a more lucrative marketing position. However, I’m starting to see more tenured experience in the space. What got you started in the industry and what made you want to stay a part of it?

I actually got my degree in journalism from the University for Creative Arts in Southern England. When I returned home, I took a copywriting job for a student travel website that was really ramping up digital efforts at that time. At first I was writing content for the website and emails and quickly moved on to deploying and being more strategic about what we were sending and when. I moved on to a large online travel agency, and later worked in the home building industry and fuel loyalty program before making the jump to vendor side. I read somewhere early on in my career that digital marketing was like a return to the good old days of customer service – where your butcher knew your name, knew what cuts of meat your family liked, and he saved that for you because he knew you’d be there on Friday asking for it. I loved the idea of being part of that return to good customer experiences.

What are some elements that make an email really effective? Can you share any examples of emails or campaigns have been done really well?

I think we can all agree that personalization is king. That can mean many things, but ultimately I think adding in any contextual information to the email that makes it feel more like a private correspondence always works well. Finding what that could be is always kind of fun too. I’ve bribed many an IT person with baked goods to help me figure out how to bring a data-rich feed in to an email so I could optimize and personalize.

I also feel strongly about geolocation targeting when it comes to email. One of my favorite hacks of all time was when I realized that there was this functionality of Feed Burner where you could take a Twitter feed and turn it into an animated gif. During Thanksgiving, the online travel agency I worked for had people stationed at airports all across the nation updating security wait times and the general chaos on Twitter. I took each feed and fed it in to the email so it would show the last 3 tweets or so for every major market. Even if you opened the email, it would refresh with the latest tweets because of how Feed Burner was constantly updating the image to the same path. It never hit any “wow look what they did!” radars but it was very cool, especially for 2009. I’ll never forget how psyched I was when that went live. The emails had a 20% higher click rate!

From a content or creative perspective, what are some do’s and don’ts email marketers should consider?

I’ve always been a big proponent of testing your subscriber base—and often—to see what works for your brand. The way people receive the messages you send is usually directly tied to the experience they’ve had with your brand already. I think it’s also important to flex a creative muscle when it comes to your templates. For example, I’ve tried a lot of the standard tricks, but the simplest one that had the biggest impact, when I was in cross-channel for a loyalty program, was the bulletproof button! I did a lot of above the fold tests and decided that for our program, a CTA button in the top frame on a desktop view was important. Then we bulletproofed the button and we had a huge uplift in clicks to the CTA! We made sure to do some analysis on whether we cannibalized the clicks in the rest of the email and were pleased to discover the bulletproof button resulted in more clicks overall and didn’t just shift the volume of clicks to that button.

What do you see as the easiest opportunities marketers can implement into their campaigns to improve results?

The easiest opportunities in my past experience were creative enhancements. Template refreshes, content refreshes and voyages in animation made the biggest impact for the least amount of effort. With animation, I found starting smaller, with something in the header for example, gave my designer some confidence to take on something like a main container image. I remember one year around Halloween we had a ghost float across the top corner of the email just as a nod to the upcoming holiday. We got really creative from that point on and figured out a way to replicate the rolling back of a gas prices in email. Starting with the ghost was less about revenue and more about confidence building for the designer. It was a good way for me to understand how it was going to work everywhere so I could plan the default image appropriately in larger campaigns or in instances when we knew the gif wouldn’t render.

Finally, what are the top 3 things in 2016 you think marketers should focus on, even if they aren’t necessarily easy or quick wins?

The first is mobile. I remember when I used to read thought leadership articles and I’d see “mobile” I felt a bit like how I feel when I open my credit card bill—I just want to ignore it and figure it out later. But putting some time and effort in to your mobile strategy is only going to get more important as we move in the “ Internet of Things” and wearable devices. Think about how the email renders in mobile and then think about the site experience once the user clicks. If you provide a warm experience in the email-to-site click on a desktop, how do you ensure a warm experience on mobile?

Second, a true cross channel integration. Again, way easier said than done, but even if you can get two channels unified this year—say email and direct mail or email and mobile, it’s a great accomplishment. Put a checkpoint on your calendar in April or so to see if you’ve made some progress towards the goal. Break it up into much smaller milestones and have dates associated to those milestones so that you don’t lose track of it while you go about your day to day marketing efforts.

Finally, don’t forget to have some fun! I’ve heard more and more about marketing on new platforms like Snapchat and I think these can be really fruitful initiatives. Maybe you won’t make hundreds of thousands on it, but I feel like these types of things can be like chicken soup for the marketer’s soul! As long as the investment is minimal, they can be fun, you can get creative and feel like you are doing something out the box.